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by Mark Hansel

With the holiday shopping season now in the rear view mirror, it’s time to look at what is in store for the Las Vegas retail market in 2008 and beyond.

Experts say factors affecting the local retail picture are the continued growth of retail on the Strip, highlighted by the opening of another major resort with a retail element, the emergence of lifestyle markets in valley neighborhoods and the weak U.S. dollar.

It’s not surprising that more retail options, especially off the Strip, are seen as a plus. What may seem a bit unusual to some, however, is the potentially positive effect of the decline of U.S. dollar’s value compared to foreign cash.

John Restrepo of Restrepo Consulting said an unfavorable outlook for the dollar could easily bode well for the local economy. Restrepo’s company and Colliers International compile a quarterly summary that outlines historical trends and the current state of the local retail market.

“A weak dollar is not necessarily a bad thing for the local economy,” Restrepo said.

It’s no secret that tourists fuel the Las Vegas economy and an increasing number of big spenders come from abroad. A weak U.S. dollar means foreign currency goes a lot further and increases the odds that visitors will be even more willing to spend in Las Vegas.

A good example was the recent opening of the region’s first H&M, a Swedish-based clothier, at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Although grand openings of the clothier are always well attended, an informal survey of those waiting in line revealed that many were foreign visitors looking to take advantage of the relative strength of their native currency.

One Canadian couple indicated they were buying so much, they would have to use some of the money they saved on clothes to buy extra luggage to pack their purchases in.

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